Immortal Brain

Immortal Brain

Do you ever take time mindfully to trace the delicate outline of your body, a simple, soft, sensual pleasure of connection with your physical geometry? So often, our relationship with our bodies is skewed and viewed through the mind's lens, informing and influencing our assessment of our corporeal being. Often built on false beliefs, they inhibit us from wholly occupying our body; instead, we become responsive to external benchmarks and negative speak, never fully present in our bodies. We tune in to external criteria transmitted via TV, social media, fashion, and magazines. Have we forgotten the simple pleasure and joy of being alive in our skin? When did kindness and love for self leave the room? We seem to have lost our personal connection to self, taking delight in experiencing who we are in our bodies without judgment.

In a time when we are all obsessed with staying young, embracing your old age can be tinged with a soupçon of underlying pressure fanned by the desire to still look and feel youthful. How often do you hear people say that age is only a number? It's how you feel inside that matters. Of course, that's true, but when can we sink into our age gracefully and not have to conform to the (no wrinkle) norms of conventional beauty? My hair went grey overnight in my early 30s due to stress (my son had to have major heart surgery at four and a bit). It's singularly the one thing I have struggled with as part of the ageing process, mourning the loss of colour and luxuriant hair.  

My mind is still crisp, and my memory is excellent. Over lockdown, I was hampered by injury and have only begun to get back into a regular exercise routine. The gap between how I used to be and the limitations that age imposes through inactivity is hard to overcome. But acceptance allows us to make changes, be kinder and reap new benefits. Could we embrace our age without the pressure to compete, instead cultivating optimum vitality and cognitive function with ease and compassion?

Some fascinating insights were uncovered in a recent study published by Northwestern University's School of Medicine. Specifically, it is about an emerging group of individuals called 'SuperAgers' whose brain and memory function were significantly younger than their biological age. These “Super-Agers", some of whom were over 80, were discovered to have had larger neuron cells in areas of the brain linked to memory. Interestingly, these neuron cells were also significantly larger than younger trial participants in their 20s and 30s, some with early onset dementia. The discovery of these larger neuron cells is a marker for this Superager arc. 

So, how can you begin to reap the benefits of these studies? Are there lifestyle choices you could make that support this outcome? Currently, the study focuses on identifying whether genetic or lifestyle factors influence and promote the development of these enlarged neuron cells. Identifying this factor could be essential to early identification of Alzheimer's and guiding potential treatment.

You can optimise this function by looking after your brain and body. Firstly, aim to keep your stress levels down through journaling and breath work, exercise 20-30 minutes daily, and eat a good, nutrient-rich diet composed of fatty fish, dark green leafy vegetables, and good fats and nuts whilst making strides to reduce alcohol, sugar and caffeine. Make good lifestyle choices consisting of physical and mental factors, learn new exercises and challenge yourself to try something unfamiliar, like meditation or other mindfulness practices; they will calm your mind and balance your autonomic nervous system.

Research has also shown that a regular practice of Qigong increases longevity. It helps reduce stress levels, improves mental function, positively affects bone and cardiovascular health and can improve balance. Doing Qigong in the sun helps increase Vitamin D and Serotonin levels which enables you to feel calm and focused, and BDNF - B = Brain (your brain generates new positive connections), D = Derived (we increase creativity and mood), NF= Neurotrophic Factor (helps slow ageing and nerve-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's). It also triggers the release of the hormone Melatonin, which is essential for good sleep.

Take on new skills; keep your mind open to this; making time for this is not a chore but can be a fun, uplifting pursuit. Indeed, learning new things is something I still continue to embrace and relish with gusto. Make good choices; a lifestyle of too much excess, too little exercise and too little sleep will inevitably impact your body and mind. An 80/20 ratio of goodness versus occasional temptation is a good rule of thumb. I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the week and relax a bit over the weekend. Hopefully, finding this natural balance helps create a robust healing base.